eMMC vs. SSD: What's the Difference?

Not all storage options are the same

Photo of a person sitting at a desk with a laptop and cup of coffee on it. Person is also holding a smartphone.

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If you're shopping for a new laptop, there are a lot of factors to think about. One of the most important aspects to consider is the kind of storage a laptop offers. Your average laptop (whether it's a 2-in-1, big and expensive, or budget-friendly and compact) will most likely sport either eMMC storage or SSD storage, but how are they different? Keep reading to learn more about eMMC hard drives vs. SSD hard drives.

What Is eMMC Storage and How Does It Work?

eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard) storage is a form of internal storage made up of a controller and NAND flash memory, both of which are located in one integrated circuit. eMMC storage chips are usually embedded in a given device's motherboard. The controllers housed within eMMC chips have the ability to put data into storage, which, according to SearchStorage, allows the device's CPU to conserve its already limited speed and power for other computing tasks. In addition, eMMC's use of NAND flash memory also requires little to no power from the device to hold onto data.

Unsurprisingly, the fact eMMC chips are able to perform with little to no power drawn from their devices goes hand-in-hand with the fact that eMMC chips are generally found in PCs and mobile devices that have limited power, performance, and speed; especially when compared with more expensive, fully-featured laptops. In fact, you'll normally find eMMC chips in compact/budget laptops, Chromebooks, tablet PCs, 2-in-1s, and even smartphones and tablets.

When Should You Buy eMMC Storage?

If you're looking for something portable with a lower price point, a PC with eMMC storage may be worth considering. And, as Windows Central points out, PCs with eMMC storage may also be best for those who already own an external hard drive, have a cloud storage subscription, or can at least afford a cloud storage subscription. This is because PCs with eMMC storage tend to have smaller storage capacities available. So, if you need to store a lot of files and other data, you'll need to have an external storage option if you still plan to use an eMMC PC.

Another thing to consider is how you plan to use your laptop. Laptops featuring eMMC storage are generally best for those who plan to use them for web browsing and streaming media and not much else. They're not really built for labor-intensive tasks.

What Is SSD Storage and How Does It Work?

SSD (solid-state drive) storage is a type of internal storage that consists of a number of flash memory chips, a circuit board, and usually either a SATA or PCIe interface that moves data and provides an SSD with power.

Unlike more traditional hard drives, SSDs don't require moving parts like drive motors to read data. The lack of moving parts in SSDs means they don't need as much power to read data and can do so much faster than hard drives. And, like eMMC storage, SSDs use NAND flash memory, which enables SSDs to use less power when storing data.

SSDs are usually found in bigger, more fully-featured laptops or desktop computers. These computers also tend to be more expensive and have larger storage capacities than eMMC computers and mobile devices. The larger storage capacities are due to the fact that SSDs have larger sizes available.

When Should You Buy SSD Storage?

Customers who need a fully-featured laptop that can handle a wide variety of computing tasks (web browsing, watching movies, gaming, and productivity tasks) would probably be best served by a laptop that has SSD storage.

Due to the fact the SSDs often offer large storage capacities, SSDs are best for those who plan on storing large files (or just more data in general) on their PCs.

Also, price is an important factor when considering SSDs. While they're often worth the money (SSDs tend to be faster, perform better, and can store more than eMMC devices), they also tend to be more expensive. They're generally not considered "budget laptops," but if your budget can support the cost of an SSD laptop, it may be worth the purchase.

How They Compare: eMMC flash vs. SSD

When comparing eMMCs to SSDs, there are three primary things to look at.

Performance (speed/data transfer speed)

eMMC devices and PCs aren't super slow, but they're generally considered to be much slower than PCs outfitted with SSD storage.

Currently, eMMC storage can reach up to a transfer speed of 400 MB/s, whereas the best SSDs (including high-performance PCIe SSDs), which vary widely in their read/write speeds, can have read speeds ranging from about 500 MB/s to over 3,000 MB/s. The best SSDs can also have write speeds that vary from about 300 MB/s to over 3,000 MB/s.

Capacity (Storage)

eMMCs also lose to SSDs in the battle for storage capacity. eMMCs have a much more limited storage capacity, but it kind of makes sense considering what they're used for. eMMCs are generally intended for lightweight, mobile devices and ultra-portable PCs.

eMMC devices mostly offer the following storage sizes: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. SSDs, since they're intended to be used with full-featured laptops and desktop computers, can offer up to 1TB of storage or more.

Price

eMMCs finally score a victory against SSDs when it comes to price. While eMMCs have their limitations, they're also cheaper. There are many eMMC budget laptops that are less than $500, and a good number of those are even less than $300.

You can get new SSD laptops from online retailers (with a minimum of 512GB in SSD storage) starting at around $500 - $600. There are certainly SSD laptops that cost much more than that, even reaching into the thousands, but the pricing often depends on the type of SSD involved, storage size, and other computing features included in the laptop.